megapixel heaven

Kathy surprised me with a new present a few days ago. It’s a Nikon D70 digital camera. She’s known for a long time that I wanted one, and with my recent raise at work, she felt that I deserved something special.

This camera is so far beyond anything I ever expected to own that I’m still in shock every time I pick it up. It’s so fast and responsive, and being a true SLR camera, the possibilities are endless. Everything except the zoom feature can be configured to be completely automatic, or you can do everything manually. It’s taken beautiful pictures so far, and I should be able to do even better after I learn a thing or two in the photography classes.

My old camera, the HP photosmart 318, really sucks. It took at least two seconds after pushing the button for it to do anything at all, after which it would flash twice very slowly (three times with red-eye reduction), and finally take the picture. Sometimes nothing would happen at all when you pushed the button, for no visible reason. I have never been very happy with the quality of the pictures I got out of this camera, and because of the rather cumbersome interface, the only time it got real use was on my trip to India … and I REALLY wish that I’d had the Nikon back then!

Many thanks to my loving wife!


noo yeers

It’s nearly midnight on New Years Eve, Mountain Standard Time.

Tomorrow, we all venture into a new year. Things are pretty good for me right now. I have a good job, and some additional opportunities on the horizon.

Kathy’s brother (my brother-in-law) is exchanging vows in the afternoon tomorrow — with his wife. They were officially married on Christmas Eve, in Japan. He is stationed on a naval base near Tokyo, which is the city that she lives in. She is a native of Japan.

Nat is performing the ceremony, which will only have sentimental value, since they are already legally married. Thanks to a lot of effort by Kathy and her mom, it promises to be a beautiful wedding.


christmas quest

This christmas, we did something a little different for the kids.

We told them prior to the big day that they would not have any presents under the tree, and there would be nothing in their stockings. They didn’t actually believe that we would do it, but we did.

Sitting on top of their stockings was a note. Click the image to see it full size.

Christmas hunt poster

Attached to this note was a clue, leading them off on a hunt that lasted half an hour and ranged all over the house. It was a more satisfying experience for everyone than we’ve had in the past — it used to be over in just a few minutes.


wp upgrade woes – 1.22

I upgraded to WordPress 1.22 just a few minutes ago. I am now back to the default stylesheet, and will work on modifying it when I can.

I had one problem after the upgrade. I could not edit my links. I fixed the problem myself. Here’s a patch.

I finally did find an official WordPress page that mentioned it. I added my patch to that page.


visited states volume one

Here’s the states that I have visited. There are actually a few more, but I am not counting the ones that I went through on my bus trip to Ohio.

states I have visited


shave every day and you’ll always look keen

I went to Walmart on December 24th. Yes, I was dumb enough to wander into the den of evil on Christmas Eve. Thankfully, I only had a few things to get, and I was able to get into a relatively fast “20 items or less” checkout line.

I bought some of the 50 cent pies that Nat mentioned in his blog. They are pretty good, but Kathy says that Hostess pies are better, and they are three for a buck at the Hostess store.

While I was at Walmart, I bought a new shaver. I am hopeful that this one will give me a few years of service.

These fancy electric razors are not cheap, but they really do make the job of shaving faster and easier. If they didn’t, the companies that make them would not be able to get anyone to pay so much for them.

Anyone who has known me in person in the last few years is aware of my facial hair. I have bushy hair on my face because I am lazy, not because I enjoy it. Kathy does not like the hair. She very much prefers me to have a smooth face, and I enjoy being hair free as well. I look much younger when I shave. There have been a lot of scientific and non-scientific studies done that show people, especially women, tend to have more trust in a man who shaves. We haven’t had a president with a beard in amost 100 years.

Even so, I really hate to mess with disposable razors and shaving cream. I hate it so much that I will go a month or more without shaving, rather than deal with them.

A few years ago for Valentines day, Kathy bought me a Braun Syncro shaver (model 7526). Like the one I just bought, it’s a self-cleaning razor.

A month or so after I got it, it broke. I never got around to calling Braun for warranty replacement, which I probably could have gotten, but in the end I figure the new one would have broken in a similar manner.

The nature of the problem is, in my opinion, a major design flaw in the cleaner. The top part pushes down into the end of the razor, providing power for charging and cleaning. The problem was that the top would not stay down — the latching mechanism deep inside broke. There is a spring inside, designed to disengage the power from the razor at the touch of a button. Because it would not lock in the coiled position, the cleaner was completely broken unless I spent 20 minutes holding it down. The only thing I ever found to wrap around it effectively to as a jury-rig was so hard to attach and remove that it wasn’t worth doing.

This problem effectively rendered the entire shaver useless, because its blades are designed to be cleaned daily. If they are not cleaned daily, excess hair accumulates and the razor stops working effectively. Cleaning the razor manually is a major chore — I would rather get out the shaving cream and the disposable razors.

The Remington razor I just bought also receives power at the top of the cleaning mechanism. I don’t believe there is a design flaw here, because the spring, located in the bottom under the blades, works to push the razor into the power source, rather than separate it.

The Braun company does seem to be aware of this design flaw. Their newest razor doesn’t have this problem — you drop the razor into the base and it’s ready to go. I would have bought this razor, but Walmart was out of them.


how much pick me up?

As a regular consumer of Dr. Pepper, I was intrigued when I stumbled across this list of drinks and their caffeine levels.

It’s interesting that a Diet Coke has more than a regular Coca-Cola Classic, but those in India won’t be surprised. There, the Classic has NO caffeine at all, but the Diet variety does.


dvd backup

I have had enormous trouble with optical drives on my main Windows system. The CD burner that came with it died for unknown reasons. I bought a new DVD burner that did everything except dual layer, and either Ben (my 3 year old) or one of the other small kids who happened to be in the house that day pulled the tray out of the drive. Even though I managed to get the tray back in and physically functional, the drive no longer works.

A couple of days ago, a brand new drive arrived at my house – dual-layer all-format (except DVD-RAM) DVD burning. It burns DVD+R discs (the only kind I have at the moment) at 8X – about ten minutes for a full burn. It claims 11080KB/sec as it burns, which would be equivalent to a 73X CD burner.

Thanks to this new drive, I have a full backup of my main computer now, using three DVDs for a file-based backup and one CD for an MS backup of the “System State” which is a 500 MB file.

I have been trying to locate a utility to lock the tray on my drive so that kids can’t ruin another one, but the ones I have found all cost about $20. Can anyone either help me find a free one or dust off their keyboard and write me one?

I may end up buying one anyway — the cost of buying all these new drives is becoming irritating.


blog upgrade frenzy

Now that Nat has upgraded to version 1.2.1, version 1.2.2 has now come out.

I will be upgrading my blog from 1.2.1 to 1.2.2 in the near future. When I do, I will be temporarily going back to the default WordPress stylesheet. I will be attempting to distill Nat’s stylesheet to its essence, so that I can forge my own using the 1.2.2 stylesheet as a starting point.

Nat, I may need to enlist your direct assistance for this!


boot visualization

Yesterday slashdot had an article about a project to visualize the GNU/Linux boot process. For no reason other than satisfying my inner geek, I rebooted this server and obtained my own visualization. Read on for gory details.


almost the same

English is a cornucopia of homonyms. You can find the oddest ways to say almost anything, and generate misunderstanding because there’s another word that sounds exactly the same.

Some friends that I chat with every day were trading links as usual, and this video clip surfaced. This is a very funny clip of Ken Jennings on Jeopardy. It’s safe for most work environments – I would hate to work in a place that would fire you over it.


cancelling aol

AOL is the spawn of the devil. I believe everyone knows someone who has had an AOL account and had enormous trouble getting the account cancelled when it is no longer needed.

I just saw an installment of “Get Gephardt” where he helped someone cancel an AOL account after 18 months of continued credit card charges.

Kathy and I know someone who works on the AOL account at Convergys, on the signup side. This person says that the department that handles cancellations is actually called Account Retention. Apparently the people that work in this department face disciplinary action if they fail to retain two out of every three customers who call to cancel. If they can get you to say “OK” or “Yes” or any other affirmative response in the course of the conversation, they won’t cancel your account.

I’m told that the best way to get an account cancelled is to only say the words “cancel my account” during your conversation with AOL – don’t let them goad you into any kind of affirmative response.


lower lights madness

I am sometimes asked why I have taken on the burden of running a system for the Lower Lights community.

The answer to that question is mostly “because I can,” but there is a lot of nostalgia involved too. The friendships I forged on Lower Lights hastened the breakdown of my first marriage and helped me through the divorce. This was during my twenties, when the male of the species wakes up and begins to mature. The things that happen during this phase of your life have an enormous impact on who you are, even more than High School. I met a lot of people on Lower Lights, and the experience was for the most part very positive.

Running the site, I often feel like I am herding dozens of schoolchildren who have escaped from an insane asylum. I have banned a few users who were completely unwilling to adhere to the forum rules, which are fairly lenient. Despite this, I enjoy running it.

Read on for a look back at why I was in the right place at the right time to inherit the domain.


new blog name

Nat gave me an idea for my blogname — express the idea of “my thoughts” in Latin. Although much of it has turned to mush, I did take five years of Latin in high school. Drawing on the remnants in my head and access to an Internet dictionary, I came up with “mens mea” as a loose translation for “my thoughts.” The word “mens” has no exact translation in English. All of the following are in the dictionary for this one word: mind, understanding, intellect, judgment; feelings, disposition; courage; opinion, thoughts; intention, resolve. I am indebted to Nat for this idea and the results.

Those who have seen Legally Blonde and those with a legal background will see a similarity to the legal term “mens rea” which is literally translated “guilty mind” but is perhaps better expressed as “criminal intent.”

In other news, I have also shamelessly stolen (with permission) Nat’s stylesheet for WordPress. Standing on the shoulders of a giant, my blog looks better.


and so it begins

Inspired by my friend Nat’s blog and a recent post on it, I have taken a few minutes and installed some blogging software on my site.

We’ll see whether I actually take the time to keep on top of it. I’ve had a livejournal for a while now, but rarely ever updated it.

I’ll be taking suggestions for a blog name. “Heart of Darkness” was the first thing that came to mind when I set it up.